After the Covid-19 pandemic precipitated an economic crisis of historic proportions, the Industrial Areas Foundation launched a campaign calling on Congress to provide direct monthly aid for the duration of the crisis to American workers -- regardless of their citizenship.
While the recently passed $2.2 Trillion emergency stimulus will provide adults a one-time $1,200 check, it is set to leave out undocumented immigrants -- including those who pay taxes using a Tax Identification Number. IAF organizations across the West / Southwest IAF working with immigrant communities lay out the implications of this decision below:
Health care is a concern to both undocumented immigrants and legal residents.... Last August, the Trump administration tightened restrictions on legal immigrants who receive government benefits, referred to as 'public charges.' The new policy denies green cards to many immigrants who use Medicaid, food stamps and other benefits.
Immigrants in the Dallas area mask their symptoms so they can continue to work, according to Josephine López Paul, lead organizer with Dallas Area Interfaith.
“We’ve seen our service industries obliterated,” said Ms. López Paul. “Immigrants are being hit the hardest right now and there’s no safety net for them.”
When undocumented immigrants do approach hospitals, they quickly turn away if they see any law enforcement present, according to Ana Chavarin, lead organizer of Pima County Interfaith in Tucson, Ariz. Families are less afraid of the virus itself and more concerned with how they would pay for a long-term hospital visit, she said.
Ms. Chavarin has met with families who, not knowing how long the pandemic will last or when they will find work again, have begun rationing food. “Because they are undocumented, they cannot apply for any kind of help,” she said. Some have U.S. citizen children and could apply for benefits on their behalf, she said. But fear of deportation keeps many from doing so.
Food is the number one concern for pastors in Houston, according to Elizabeth Valdez, lead organizer for The Metropolitan Organization. Some parishes and congregations have started to purchase gift cards for food while others are collecting items for the church pantry. Local chapters of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul are gathering items, but since they often count on elderly volunteers, it has been a challenge.
Children cut off from school presents another challenge for low-income families. “The kids being home, [families] don’t always have the technology they need to keep up with school,” Ms. Valdez said.
“There has to be a way to get the money into the hands of service workers,” said Joe Rubio, director of the West/Southwest Industrial Area Foundation, a community organizing network. Pastors are seeing an increase in domestic violence, he said, likely stemming from frustration, economic pressure and children being home from school. Studies have found that immigrant survivors of domestic violence are unlikely to report abuse to law enforcement. Isolation and behavioral health issues have the potential to lead to an increase in suicide rates, he said.
“This could profoundly change the nature of parishes and congregations,” Mr. Rubio said, referring not only to the economic impact of the coronavirus but also how communities respond to those in need during the crisis. “We have to think about how we compensate those making the biggest sacrifices and how we ramp up the economy once it’s over.”
[Photo Credit: John Locher, AP Photo]
Over 600 TMO leaders from 44 institutions convened Sunday, October 20th at Assumption Catholic Church to hold Houston mayoral candidates accountable to the organization's slate of issues. TMO leaders shared stories and asked targeted questions about gun safety, reducing fear in immigrant communities, flood recovery, flood prevention, illegal dumping, workforce development, and just wages.
All three candidates -- Mr. Tony Buzbee, Mr. Bill King, and Mr. Sylvester Turner -- committed to meeting with TMO leaders within the first 30 days in office if elected.
With early voting beginning Tuesday, TMO leaders reminded the assembly to vote and help get out the vote.
Mayoral Candidates Pressed on Guns, Harvey Recovery, Dumping, Houston Chronicle
In a budget process that "devolved into a clash of wills," according to the Houston Chronicle, TMO clergy and leaders leveraged a major wage win for workers: $14 per hour for 3,000+ of the lowest paid employees in the Houston Independent School District, employees who keep children safe, nourished, and schools clean.
In testimony to the HISD Board, Deacon Sam Dunning, Director of the Office of Peace and Justice in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston argued: "A budget is a moral document...it is time to treat all workers with dignity."
Rev. Carissa Baldwin-McGinnis of Northside Episcopal Church argued, "There is a price to be paid for allocating funds that is not equitable to all classes and that price will be paid by your hourly workers and their family members... in the form of hunger, inadequate housing, anxiety, fear and stress." Rev. Jimmy Grace of St. Andrew’s Episcopal, Rev. Darrel Lewis of New Pleasant Grove Baptist, Rev. Jacqueline Hailey of New Hope Baptist, Rev. Rhenel Johnson of St. Andrew's UMC and Chava Gal-Orr from Temple Sinai spoke at Board meetings and press conferences as well.
This spring, TMO was part of a delegation of 300 Texas IAF leaders that called on state legislators to increase spending in public education in order to retain the talent upon which public schools rely. After passage of HB3, which put millions of dollars into public schools across the state, TMO leaders worked locally to make sure Houston Independent School District used its funds for the lowest paid workers.
[Photo Credit: Top photos from footage by Univision]
Houston ISD Trustees Approve $1.9 Billion Budget, Houston Chronicle
Video of clergy statements [first skip to 14:33 and then to 19:05]
TMO leaders held a press conference on Tuesday, June 18th at the Houston Independent School District (HISD) Administration Building to stand with workers in HISD. With the lowest paid workers being paid $12 per hour, and with $136 million additional dollars flowing into the school district, the time to stop perpetuating poverty in the district is NOW. TMO is calling for a starting wage of $15, and we need your support. Leaders have started a petition calling for a raise in wages to $15 an hour for the lowest paid workers. Petitions are being circulated and signed in member institutions with hundreds of signatures already obtained.
Rev. Jacqueline Hailey and Rev. Darrell Lewis (bottom photos) also spoke in front of the school board at the most recent HISD budget hearing asking for starting wages to be raised to $15 per hour. Leaders are continuing to schedule meetings, call and write to board members to directly advocate for the raising of wages for workers and support staff before the Board’s vote on Thursday, June 27th.
[Photo Credit: Top photos from footage by Univision.]
Reflecting on an independent study of the long-term job training program on which Capital IDEA-Houston is modeled, Houston Chronicle business columnist Chris Tomlinson writes that:
"Programs to train low-skilled, underemployed adults to move up the economic ladder are notoriously ineffective, but Project Quest in San Antonio has hit on a formula with a now-proven track record....
Marc Elliott, CEO of Economic Mobility Corp, asserts that “to see earning differences this large and for this long is unprecedented in the workforce development field.” Economic Mobility is the organization that conducted the nine-year evaluation.
Capital IDEA-Houston, which was established by TMO, is modeled on Project QUEST. In right-side photos above, trainees learn to conduct PERRLA evaluations and cradle newborns. [Photo Credit: Jerry Lara, San Antonio Express-News]
San Antonio Program Moves Low-Skilled into Middle Class, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Nine Year Gains: Project QUEST's Continuing Impact, Economic Mobility Corporation [pdf]
After a morning briefing on school finance, the Texas Innovative Career Education (ACE) program and other issues -- including healthcare, payday lending, and infrastructure in the colonias -- leaders were honored for their establishment of noteworthy labor market intermediaries, including Capital IDEA-Houston. Immediately afterward, they convened on the South Capitol steps. Legislators representing districts from across the state stood in solidarity with leaders and pledged to continue working for investments in people.
In photo above, the Rev. Dr. Rhenel Johnson is accompanies by TMO leaders and leaders from sister organizations, including Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI), San Antonio (COPS/Metro), Central Texas / Austin Interfaith, West Texas Organizing Strategy (WTOS), El Paso's Border Interfaith & EPISO, and the Rio Grande Valley (Valley Interfaith).
After the press conference, leaders broke out into smaller delegations to meet with legislators representing their geographic regions.
Organizations Call On State Legislators to Support Adult Education, Univision 62 [Spanish video]
40 TMO leaders and Capital IDEA graduates joined over 200 Network of Texas (NTO) IAF organization leaders at the Texas state capital to talk to our state representatives and senators about restoring full funding of the Texas Innovative Adult Career Education Fund (ACE Fund). Our delegation met with 20 legislators and/or their staffs asking them to support the ACE fund at its full $5 million, and also supporting bail reform, local control, and opposing ant-immigrant legislation.
At a pre-election accountability assembly attended by 600 TMO leaders
at New Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, top mayoral candidates mostly agreed to support TMO's inequality agenda, which included police staffing, road improvements and wages. All except one candidate pledged $1 Million out of the City budget for expansion workforce development program Capital IDEA-Houston.
Costello Highlights City's Budget Woes at TMO Forum, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Exigen Respuestas de Candidatos a Alcadia, Univision
Following up on its $5 million win from the last legislative session in 2013, Texas IAF leaders - including several from TMO - succeeded in ensuring that the Adult Career Education (ACE) Grant program (and its $5 million in funding) stayed on the Texas budget. This means that Texas IAF workforce development programs like Capital IDEA-Houston, Project ARRIBA, VIDA, Project QUEST, SkillsQuest and Capital IDEA of Austin can apply for these funds to expand the job training they currently offer.
Capital IDEA-Houston, founded by TMO, is an integral strategy to train people out of low-wage employment and into living wage careers.
Responding to David Brooks' assertion that the President's proposal to provide cost-free community college access is not enough, TMO leaders Rev. Kevin Collins, Mr. Franklin Olson and Mr. Bob Fleming agree, but go further to share the good news that the programs Brooks calls for already exist in Texas.
"Local programs in San Antonio, Austin, El Paso, Dallas and the Rio Grande Valley developed by IAF affiliates have graduated thousands of students from our community colleges, lifting them out of poverty and into self-sufficiency. These initiatives are ripe for expansion and replication." Capital IDEA-Houston is just one of such programs. Read more below: